Boating under the influence is a dangerous act. Most people don’t realize that those driving a powered boat cannot be under the influence at any time. Although having open containers on a boat or having passengers drink is totally legal, the captain or driver cannot be impaired.
This rule is important because it helps prevent drivers from behind the wheel when they have slower reaction times or impaired balance. Alcohol or drugs, especially when combined with heat, the movement of waves and dehydration, may cause poor coordination, blurry vision and other issues.
Understanding Florida’s boating under the influence laws
Boating under the influence of alcohol is illegal in Florida. If a person driving a boat has a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher, then they can be assumed to be too intoxicated to drive and will be charged for a BUI. Even someone with a lowed BAC can be arrested for a BUI, such as those with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.05 and 0.08%.
What are the penalties for boating while impaired in Florida?
Those who boat while impaired in Florida may be:
- Fined up to $500 and face up to six months in prison for a first offense
- Face fines of up to $1,000 and prison time of up to nine months for a second conviction
- Face fines of up to $2,500 for third convictions. There is also a risk of imprisonment for up to a year
These penalties are for those who were caught while impaired but not necessarily those who caused crashes, injuries or death. It is a felony to commit an accident while boating if it causes death, property damage or injuries.
Like with other motor vehicles, you give consent to be tested for intoxicating substances when you operate a boat in the state. If you refuse, then the authorities may penalize you. The civil penalty is a $500 fine.
Remember, in severe cases, the penalties increase. For instance, if your BAC was over .15%, then you could be imprisoned for up to a year and fined up to $5,000. The laws are strict, so if you face a BUI, it’s important to take steps to learn more about your defense options.